“You are to give him the name Jesus” (Matthew 1:21).
It took a while for me to be comfortable calling him by his first name. I’ve thought about that a lot over the years. Why was it so hard for me to say, “Jesus”? I think part of it was the formalism of my training. We talked about him but never used his name. We wrote about him but never used his name. I read things about him that never mentioned his name. I got the impression it wasn’t appropriate to be that chummy with God. I guess we were trying to show respect by addressing him with his titles: the Son of God, the Lord, the Savior, the Messiah, the Christ. We could intone those names with seriousness and keep God at a safe distance. We talked about loving his Word and knowing his Word but not much about knowing Jesus and loving Jesus.
But the phonics of his name draws us to him. The only way to say it is with soft sounds: [ˈjē-zəs]. I can imagine the shepherds entering his birthplace with trepidation. They probably stood at a distance, looked down at the baby, and then looked up at Joseph and asked, “What’s his name?” When Joseph said, “It’s Jesus,” I’m sure they repeated it. “Yes—Jesus—that’s a very nice name.” And then they approached him and bowed before him because they knew “he [would] save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).